The ex-head of the Crown Prosecution Service has called for judges to be given powers to force guilty offenders to attend court and face victims’ families but said this would need ‘incentives’ – after Sabina Nessa’s killer refused to leave his cell
Lord Ken MacDonald said ‘urgent’ change is needed to stop killers from ‘insulting’ families by not attending court to face their sentencing.
He said it would be difficult to force the accused to come to court as ‘defendants might be disruptive’, adding the court does not want people ‘dragged kicking and screaming’.
He suggested convicted offenders could get privileges taken away in prison by judges for not attending court or it could mean they are in contempt of court, which is a crime that can mean an additional sentence.
Koci Selamaj, an ‘evil’ sexual predator, who was jailed for at least 36 years for the murder of Ms Nessa refused to go to the Old Bailey and was jailed for life in his absence.
The 36-year-old travelled to London from the south coast to carry out the premeditated attack on a random woman on September 17 last year.
Ms Nessa’s sister Jebina Yasmin Islam said the court should have the power to force someone to attend after being ‘frustrated’ with Selamaj’s no-show.
Lord Ken MacDonald said ‘urgent’ change is needed to stop killers from ‘insulting’ families by not attending court to face their sentencing
Sabina Nessa’s sister Jebina Yasmin Islam has asked Home Secretary Priti Patel to be given powers to force guilty offenders to attend court
Ms Nessa was attacked and killed by Koci Selamaj, an ‘evil’ sexual predator, who was last week jailed for at least 36 years
Albanian national Koci Selamaj, 36, used ‘extreme violence’ to kill teacher Ms Nessa, 28, whose body was uncovered underneath a pile of leaves in Cator Park, London
Ms Islam said: ‘I think it’s so important, the fact that they should be able to make the murderer, the perpetrator, come into court and listen.’
And she added convicts should not have the freedom to say they do not want to attend court.
She said: ‘I was frustrated. We were like, ‘He is such a coward, not facing up to what he has done’.
‘It made me angry because I wanted him to hear our impact statement to show how much hurt he’s caused my family.’
When asked by Good Morning Britain about receiving a minimum of 36 years for the murder of Ms Nessa, Ms Islam said ‘life should mean life’,
She added: ‘He’s taken my sister’s life without a second thought, so he should have all of his rights taken away because he didn’t turn up to court on Thursday and Friday, and if you’ve taken a life you should serve until you die in prison – a tougher sentence.’
Anthony Russell killed three people in a sickening six-day spree during the pandemic. The 39-year-old was convicted of raping Nicole McGregor on October 26, 2020, having previously admitting murdering her and dumping her body in woodland in Leamington Spa
Russell has also pleaded guilty to the murders of David Williams and his mother Julie Williams at separate flats in Coventry on October 21, 2020 and October 25, 2020 respectively
Lord Ken MacDonald, former Director of Public Prosecutions, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he had ‘enormous sympathy’ for Ms Nessa’s family and said it was ‘not the first time’ defendants did not attend their sentencing.
Triple killer Anthony Russell who raped his final victim when she was five-months’ pregnant refused to attend court in March and will die in jail after being given a whole-life sentence.
Heroin junkie Russell, 39, raped Nicole McGregor on October 26, 2020, before murdering her and dumping her body in a woodland in Leamington Spa and also slayed David Williams, 32, and his mother Julie Williams, 58, at separate flats in Coventry on October 21, 2020 and October 25, 2020 respectively.
Jennifer Johnson, 55, who misled the first trial of Babes in the Wood killer Russell Bishop in 1987, leading to him being cleared despite murdering nine-year-old friends Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway in Brighton, also did not attend her sentencing.
She was jailed from her cell for six years in May 2021.
Arthur was beaten to death by 32-year-old Tustin following months of abuse by her and his father Thomas Hughes. His trial hear how relatives repeatedly raised concerns with social services and police but were rebuffed
Emma Tustin, 32, (left) killed Arthur Labinjo-Hughes by repeatedly slamming his head on a hard surface after she and 29-year-old Thomas Hughes starved the youngster and poisoned him with salt
Emma Tustin, 32, who was convicted of the murder of her six-year-old stepson, Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, was sentenced in absence in December 2021.
Six-year-old Arthur’s father Thomas Hughes was convicted of manslaughter.
Former head of DPP Mr MacDonald added that judges should be given the power to force defendants to attend court and stop them from giving a ‘final insult’ to families who have lost loved ones.
‘It’s really damaging to justice,’ he added.
He said: ‘The government ought to consider this urgently.’
He added that in a lot of cases convicted defendants simply do not want to ‘face’ families of their victims.
But he said that this change could only be done with the right incentives which could include granting or withholding privileges in the first year of their sentence.
Mr Islam said the impact of the killing had been ‘horrendous’ for her family who she claimed would have been treated better if they had been a ‘normal British white family’.
Referring to senior politicians, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘They’ve not said nothing. Priti Patel has done a tweet on Friday and I was not happy about it because all of a sudden she’s using my sister’s name for publicity reasons.
‘And to be honest she has no right.’
In her interview on Monday morning, Ms Islam said she had had support from the Royal Borough of Greenwich and MP Clive Efford but ‘higher up people’ had been ‘useless’.
‘I think it’s just down to our ethnicity to be honest’, she added.
‘And I feel like if we were a normal British white family we would have been treated equally, I guess.’
Selamaj strangled Ms Nessa (pictured) in undergrowth and removed her tights and underwear in what was suspected to be a sexually-motivated attack, prosecutors said
Appearing on Good Morning Britain, Ms Islam said the ‘surreal and heartbreaking’ incident has left her and her sisters ‘scared to walk the streets alone’.
She added: ‘You would never have thought that your young 28-year-old sister was brutally taken away.
‘If she was ill we could have had some time to spend time with her, make memories, but her life was taken away without a second thought and out of nowhere.
‘It has impacted on us a lot. It has impacted myself and my sisters who are scared to walk the streets alone now.’
Ms Islam also claimed newspapers treated her sister’s murder ‘differently’ to the murder of Sarah Everard, who was killed by serving police officer Wayne Couzens, and said it was ‘maybe down to her ethnicity’.
Garage worker Selamaj targeted 28-year-old Ms Nessa as she walked through Cator Park in Kidbrooke, south-east London, to meet a friend at 8.34pm on September 17.
CCTV footage captured the moment he ran up behind her and hit her over the head 34 times with a 2ft metal traffic triangle.
He carried her unconscious body up a grassy bank and out of view.
He then pulled up her clothes, removed her tights and underwear, and strangled her before covering her body in grass.
Ms Nessa, who taught a year one class at Rushey Green Primary School in Catford, was found nearly 24 hours later near a community centre in the park.